Category Archives: Classes

Coming-of-Age Program

BZC will be offering a Coming-of-Age pro­gram for youth between the ages of 12 and 14. Participants will study basic Buddhist teach­ings, mindfulness, precepts, and communica­tion skills, and explore ways to celebrate their journey toward adulthood.
The program will meet monthly for two hours on Sundays from September 2022 through June 2023. For more information, please contact Marie Hopper at

Many Communities, One Sangha: Community-of-Practice Program

BZC will offer an 11-month program to learn ways to make the Dharma available and free from hindrance to all who walk through the gate. The program will focus on increasing our capacity as a sangha to deal with the intensity of emotion and pain that arises when we are intimate together. “Community of practice” is a process of learning by doing, together over time, in community, based on shared values and concerns.
Envisioned is a two-part process: a video/
discussion curriculum to give us the opportu­nity to explore our vision, goals, and concerns, together with experiential learning, offering practical, hands-on skill development. We will meet once a month, alternating between these two modalities.
“Many Communities, One Sangha” is a community-of-practice program developed by the East Bay Meditation Center (EBMC) in collaboration with the Soto Zen Buddhist Association (SZBA). It includes videos, read­ings, and discussion, with meetings of around 2.5 hours each, exploring questions like:

  • What do we actually mean by equity?
  • What are the values, intentions, and commit­ments that drive our pursuit of equity?
  • What does it mean to create sanghas that offer trust, dignity, and belonging to a diverse community?
  • What does it mean to practice being in “right relationship” to hierarchy and authority in our communities?

The experiential sessions will be facilitated by Rhonda Magee, a student of Norman Fischer and Joan Halifax. Rhonda received lay entrustment from Joan Halifax and is the author of The Inner Work of Racial Justice: Healing Ourselves and Transforming Our Commu­nities Through Mindfulness.
The program will be provided to as many people at BZC who wish to participate. We aim to be able to provide the program to (at least) 50 BZC members and friends. The program will be offered again a second year. There will be some cost to individuals, and we are seek­ing funding through donations and grants.

New Koan Class 3/17 – 4/7

Ellen Webb, Ryushin Andrea Thach, and Ron Nestor will present three koans from Thomas Cleary’s translation of The Book of Serenity. This collection of 100 koans or cases is the koan collection most associated with our Soto lineage.We’re aiming for interactive class discussions of these three provocative cases, which can be understood from different points of emphasis. We’ll supply a scanned copy of Cleary’s text and Word files of excellent commentaries by Koun Yamada. For those without printers we will have paper copies available on the bulletin board shelf at BZC.  The Book of Serenity is also available from booksellers and online. The four cases we’ll be working with are case #12, Dizang Planting the Fields, case #20, Dizang’s Nearness, case #36, Master Ma is Unwell, and case #53, Obaku’s “Drinkers”. Studying koans in this way is not the same as the Rinzai practice of working with one’s teacher and trying to embody the koan, so we want to be clear about the difference. However, we have found it to be rich and helpful in clarifying the essential points of Zen practice.


Cost for the series is $40 or what you can afford. More information will be posted on BZC Community Group as we get closer to the dates. All are welcome.

Class on the Three Doors of Liberation

Abbot Hozan will offer a four-session online study on this classic teaching—the Three Doors of Liberation—on Thursday evenings, 7:15 to 8:45, January 13 through February 3, in the Online Zendo.

Zen Master Yoka Genkaku’s Shodoka/Song of Enlightenment begins with this verse:

There is the leisurely one,
Walking the Way, beyond philosophy,
Not avoiding fantasy, not seeking truth.
The real nature of ignorance is the Buddha-nature itself;
The empty delusory body is the very body of the Dharma.

These Zen verses remind us of the Three Doors of Liberation: Emptiness, Signlessness, and Wishlessness. While we have never studied these practices in detail, Sojun gave a rich lecture on them towards the end of his life. They feature prominently in the teaching of Thich Nhat Hanh and others in Theravada and Mahayana lineages. More to the point, the Three Doors of Liberation help us see the whole of our life as practice that is easeful, fluid, and ever-changing. Please join us for these classes, which will include study and reflection on our own embodiment of freedom.

The suggested donation is $40 for the series (or $10 per class).  You may donate by check or via the website.  If you donate using the website, click on Sits/Classes and please include a note indicating that you are paying for “Hozan’s Thursday class”.

Resource Links:

Buddhist Women Ancestors Guiding the Way

If you really want to cry for somebody, why not cry for yourself?
Why not cry for all of us — who are just passing through.
Fall on your knees and weep.
Get it all out.
Now get up. You’ve got work to do.

From The First Free Women, Poems of the Early Buddhist Nuns

Please join Karen DeCotis, Laurie Senauke, and Susan Marvin for a 4-week class on the women ancestors, with a focus on how they encourage us to continue to practice and awaken together in these challenging times. We will read and discuss stories that offer the inspiration of their presence in our very own lives.

Classes are 4 Mondays – November 16, 23, 30, and December 7 from 7:30—8:30 in the Online Zendo.

We extend a warm welcome to anyone who would like to attend the series or individual evenings. Enrollment is open to all; no need to sign up.

Donations for our class offerings support BZC’s programs; your discretionary amount is greatly appreciated. Donations by check to BZC or with PayPal using the CLASSES tab on our Donation Page.

More Class Materials

List of women ancestors chanted at Berkeley Zen Center
Background material on BZC’s list of women ancestors

Recommended Reading

(Note: this is just a brief selection of the many books available by and about Women in Buddhism)
Books about Women Ancestors

Women of the Way, Sallie Tisdale
The Hidden Lamp, Ed by Florence Caplow & Susan Moon
Daughters of Emptiness, Beata Grant
Women Poets of China, Kenneth Rexroth & Ling Chung
Zen Women, Beyond Tea-Ladies, Iron Maiden’s & Macho Masters, Grace Schireson
The First Free Women: Poems of the Early Buddhist Nun, Matty Weingast
First Buddhist Women: Poems and Stories of Awakening, Susan Murcott

Books by Contemporary Women Buddhist Teachers

Bringing Zen Home, the Healing Heart of Japanese Women’s Rituals, Paula Arai
Subtle Sound, Maureen Stuart
The Way of Tenderness, Zenju Earthlyn Manuel
A Bigger Sky, Awakening a Fierce Feminine Buddhism, Pamela Weiss
A White Tea Bowl, Mitsu Suzuki

The Subtle & Poetic Teaching of Tung-shan

Two Mondays—August 24 and 31, from 7 to 8:15pm

Ross Blum will present a two-session class on this 9th century Chinese Zen teacher from whom our Soto School derives its name. At our first meeting we’ll study a selection of stories compiled in The Record of Tung-shan translated by William Powell. In our second class we’ll explore the “Five Positions,” his description of the unfolding of a Zen student’s practice within the world of form and emptiness as it relates to our life today. See below for class materials.

While Dōgen Zenji eschewed systems or techniques in practice, we’ll see that he had absorbed this 400 year-old ancestor’s system when composing Genjokoan, a seminal fascicle in Shobogenzō.

The class will be held in BZC’s Online Zendo and is open to all; no need to register.

Class offering by donation supports BZC’s programs. Your discretionary amount is greatly appreciated.  Donations by check to BZC or with PayPal using the Classes tab on our Donation Page .

Class Materials

Here’s a PDF of the text we’ll be using. and the associated stories we’ll review: 1, 4, 8, 9, 11, 18, 30, 49, 56, 71, 74, 78, 92, 98, 102 and 103.
Two versions of the Five Positions
Outside Sojun Roshi’s office Sweetpea sits upright on the third position
and then embodies both the fourth and fifth positions